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Boy Scouts Beyond The Seas

Ned Kelly, the famous bush-ranger, in his suit of armour made from ploughshares.

Drought

One of the greatest difficulties which the farmer has to face in Australia is a drought, that is, a season when the usual rain does not come. Everything gets parched by the sun. The grass and crops wither up, there is neither food nor drink for the cattle and sheep.

Fortunately such a catastrophe comes only very rarely. Still, when I was in Victoria and New South Wales, a drought was going on, and farmers were getting into despair. Month after month had gone by without a single drop of rain.

It was now the lambing season, and the poor ewes were weak with hunger and could give no milk. The only thing to do was for the shepherds to go round knocking the young lambs on the head-while the sheep that were weakest were killed and skinned so that something could at any rate be got for their pelts.

Everything was looking very black indeed for the farmers, when one day, while I was there, the sky also began to look black, and at last the longed-for rain came down.

For hours it rained. The parched ground sucked it in, the rivulets and streams began to flow again, and the marvellous thing occurred of the grass springing up in a single night.

The paddocks, which the day before had been brown, desolate wastes, were next morning bright and green with grass. In a few days the danger was past, the sheep had lots to eat and drink, and the corn and other crops were in a most promising state.

Fortunately the danger of drought is getting less and less as the years go by, for rivers are dammed and water tanks and irrigation established, so that in a few years’ time the havoc done by a dry season will be a thing of the past in the more settled districts.

Although we all know that Australia is made up of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia, it is not yet understood at home that a new State has sprung up and is likely to develop in the Northern Territory – that is, the north central part of Australia.

Until a few years ago it was considered a hot, dry desert. But bold explorers had tries at it, some got across, others died of starvation and thirst; but, like true Scouts, the explorers stuck to it until they had found out the water springs or had made wells.

Now, what was once desert is becoming dotted with farms and sheep stations; wells have been sunk at convenient distances and roads made, and very shortly a railway will open up the centre of the country from Adelaide in the south to Port Darwin on the north coast.

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